Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The day I argued with a stranger in a costume, or why I'm glad my degree is "useless"

Often (very, very, very often), grad students in the arts and humanities are faced with the question: "But why?"

I mean, a master's/doctoral degree in the humanities is useless, right?

About a month ago at a Halloween party, someone dressed as a Reno 911 cop confronted me with some version of this question. Instead of frantically whining "But it's not useless! I guess! Maybe! I don't know!" and flailing in exasperation, I took a slightly different route.

Me: But what if I want it to be useless?

Reno 911: *confused face*

Me: You mean it's economically useless, right? Like I won't get a high-paying job as a direct result of this degree?

Reno 911: *less confused face* Yeah! Exactly! And everyone wants a high-paying job!

Me: Well, maybe I think that the use value of things shouldn't be determined by their economic value. Maybe I want to learn for the sake of learning.

Reno 911: But you still need to get a job eventually!

Me: Well, I do have a job. I'm being paid more than my degree costs. And maybe I think that the system that forces us to only do activities that make us money is BULLSHIT. Because expanding your mind is AWESOME. So maybe I'm in grad school to learn how to CHANGE THE WORLD.

Reno 911: ...But you can't change the world alone.

Me: I'm not the only person in grad school.

Reno 911: *scared face*

Me: So what do you do?

Reno 911: I'm in geography... I draw maps...

Me: Very useful.

So I'm going to change the world. What are you going to do?

(That's not an actual invitation to fight or anything. You can do whatever you want. I'm just feeling defensive.)

Anyway, here's an awesome blog post from Hook & Eye that talks about changing our perspective on PhD programs.

1 comment:

  1. Your degree isn't useless, it's the next step in getting your PhD, and after you complete that you can make everyone refer to you as Dr. Smith. Clearly a worthy goal.